Yesterday, I heard an interview with Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman on Fresh Air. (It's been a good NPR week, by the way, with a story on Tuesday that prompted me to add two books to my to-read queue.) Whilst listening to Mr. Eastwood, I decided that I'd like to be just like him when I grow up. If you know me at all, you might find this a bit surprising. I'm not an actor of any sort, have never actually seen a Dirty Harry movie and have absolutely no desire to act in a movie, write a screenplay or direct a film. But I've heard actors talk about how different it is to act for a film Mr. Eastwood is directing. He doesn't say "Action!" or "Cut!" and a previous interviewee shared that it was easier to relax and be in character without an artificial start and stop. In yesterday's interview, Clint Eastwood told the story of why he does it this way:
When he was a young actor on Rawhide, the directors (often new each week) would get a scene ready, yell "Action!" and the horses would bolt, the actors would be startled, the scene would be wrecked. So he suggested that they choose another word to help both the horses and the actors know that the scene was starting.
What occurred to me as I listened to this story is that Clint Eastwood is an actor's director. He chooses the right actor for the role and lets them do their job. He creates an atmosphere conducive to that job and does what he can to assist with vision, when necessary. And I want to write that way.
I want to be a reader's writer. I want you to read words that I've chosen to do the job. I want to trust that my words will do their job. And most often, their job is to make you think, make you feel, make you pause for just a moment. I'm not trying to give you the answers (because I don't have them), but I do want you to read something I've written and say, "Yes! I know what she means. I feel that way, too."
The good news for me is that in order to be a reader's writer, I've got to read. I need to see what writer's make my heart ache with that familiar pain, what tunes resonate with my own experience, what images sear into my brain. And then, do the best I can, with the words I have. I'm no Clint Eastwood. But I take heart in the fact that he was in his 40s when he directed his first movie. Maybe there's hope for me that I can find the right words with the time that I have left.